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Broncos Game Grades: Evaluating the performances in Denver's embarrassing loss to New York

Andre Simone Avatar
October 8, 2018

Throughout the entire 2018-19 season, BSN Denver will be giving you game grades from every Denver Broncos contest. Evaluating all the starters and beyond to give you a better look at the team’s strengths and weaknesses on a game-to-game basis.

Denver had their worst game of the season in an absolute shellacking by the New York Jets in a 34-16 loss on the road. We went back to analyze what went wrong and the few things that actually went the right way.

Standouts from the game

Chris Harris Jr.: B+

  • Harris battled all game as he was targeted a good amount early on, allowing one reception for 12 yards on five targets.
  • His ball skills were on point with two pass deflections on tough plays, staying step-for-step on crossers and batting the ball down.
  • The one reception he allowed came on an out in the red zone where he slipped.
  • Made a couple nice tackles against the run; combining with Von Miller in the backfield and coming up to tackle outside against another run.
  • Was also one of the guilty parties on Isaiah Crowell’s big 77-yard run, getting sucked inside and not being able to get back out to tackle in time.

Demaryius Thomas: A-

  • Thomas was incredibly efficient, hauling in five of six targets for 105 yards, including two deep throws for big gains, one of which was a touchdown. 
  • Had a great over-the-shoulder catch on the first deep throws.
  • Fought for the ball, snatching it out of the CB’s hands for his touchdown.
  • Did a nice job getting open on a curl route for 15 yards and had another reception to the sideline on a quick gain.


Domata Peko: C+

  • Peko’s game was a mixed bag as he made a few big plays. He was also part of a run defense that struggled mightily.
  • He picked the wrong lane on one of the two QB sneaks up the middle, conceding an easy first down.
  • Wasn’t able to close down a TFL on 3rd-and-1, as Crowell fought through his arm tackle to convert the first down.
  • Had a nice run stuff up the middle on the next play, taking down the runner with a savage tackle.
  • Combined with Wolfe for a half sack.

Derek Wolfe: C+

  • Wolfe’s impact was felt primarily with a tipped pass at the line and his interception off a tipped pass later on.
  • Didn’t make very many plays as a run defender.
  • Best play was the pressure he created on the half sack down in the red zone, breaking into the backfield and forcing Darnold inside to tackle him.

Adam Gotsis: B-

  • Gotsis started off strong with consecutive run stuffs, creating penetration inside and winning the leverage battle.
  • Made a tremendous play on his forced fumble; tackling the back from behind, tearing the ball out, and recovering the rock to boot.
  • Had some impressive flashes but wasn’t consistent in his impact.

Bradley Chubb: C-

  • Chubb, like all other Broncos, wasn’t able to impact the game as a pass rusher and wasn’t consistent enough as a run defender, either.
  • Couldn’t break through on Crowell’s big 77-yard TD, as the Jets went outside to his side with Chubb sealed up.
  • Played solid coverage to the sideline, forcing an incompletion on a target to the tight end as Darnold scrambled outside.
  • Was juked out his shoes in space by Crowell on a short reception, allowing the RB to convert the first down.
  • Tipped a pass at the line forcing an incompletion in the second half.

Brandon Marshall: C-

  • While he didn’t have any issues in coverage and wasn’t targeted at all, Marshall was slow moving sideline-to-sideline and had trouble defending the run because of it.
  • Was sealed up on the edge, allowing a 15-yard gain by Crowell to the outside.
  • Got run over by Crowell after a seven-yard gain, and looked slow to get up, grabbing his knee, but still appeared in 83 percent of the snaps.

Todd Davis: C-

  • Davis was a bit absent, and his presence certainly wasn’t felt against the run as he was another culprit of Crowell’s outstanding game.
  • Played good coverage on TE Eric Tomlinson on a throw to the flats holding the Jets to a three-yard gain.
  • Couldn’t run down Crowell on a sideline-to-sideline play, eventually forcing the runner of bounds but not before he grabbed a seven-yard gain.
  • Came up and made a few more tackles against the run but had a quiet performance that was lacking real impact.

Von Miller: B

  • Due to the Jets quick passing game, Miller’s impact as a pass rusher was greatly limited, though he did play a good game against the run with a run stuff and a tackle for loss.
  • Skyed to tip the ball erasing an easy completion to flats on the Jets second drive.
  • Couldn’t bring Crowell down outside on a broken play, missing out on a TFL as the RB turned the play into a positive gain. 
  • Fought through blocks and set a strong edge, running the RB down outside and combining with Harris for a TFL.
  • Created a run stuff by busting into the backfield on an outside run, making a tough tackle with blockers all over him.
  • Combined with Zach Kerr to get another TFL.

Darian Stewart: D

  • Stewart struggled, taking bad angles on three different big runs from Crowell and was lucky not to get flagged for making contact too early in coverage on a throw to the end zone.
  • Was juked out of his shoes on Crowell’s inside cut on massive 77-yard TD run.
  • Left Roby by himself on big TD to Anderson, staying to the trips side.
  • Missed a tackle on Crowell’s big run on the first play of the second half, another 50-plus yard run.

Justin Simmons: B+

  • Simmons was solid, taking good angles in coverage when he needed to help out as a high-safety, nullifying any potential big plays on his watch.
  • Did allow two intermediate receptions for 22 yards while playing soft off-coverage.
  • Made a strong play on an outside run, fighting through a block and bringing the runner down in space for a run stuff.

Bradley Roby: F

  • Roby had a really rough game, allowing multiple long bombs for touchdowns and only forcing an incompletion on one of his four targets.
  • Struggled mightily turning to track the ball and ended up conceding 125 receiving yards on three receptions, as he was destroyed when on an island.
  • Missed a tackle in space on Crowell setting him free for his 77-yard TD run, slipping on the RBs inside cut.
  • Was beat on another deep out route allowing a first down conversion on third-and-long.
  • His best play came as he broke up an outside pass on 3rd-and-9 getting the deflection and almost coming down with an interception.

Other noteworthy defensive performances:

Shane Ray: C+

  • Ray had an underrated game, creating penetration against the run and forcing a TFL.
  • Made a huge play with a tip at the line leading to Wolfe’s interception as he broke into the backfield to get the deflection.
  • Did get blocked out on the edge allowing a 16-yard gain by Bilal Powell.

Isaac Yiadom: D

  • Yiadom was beaten several times and was lucky to have a pass dropped at the end of the half as he was burned on an inside cut.
  • Gave up too big of a cushion on slant-and-go down in the red zone, as Terrelle Pryor made a wonderful grab to come down with the TD.
  • To his credit, he did a good job closing up the cushion from off coverage to get a tackle on 3rd-and-5, getting the stop short of the sticks.


Garett Bolles: D

  • Bolles struggled early on in pass protection and was even sidelined for a handful of snaps including the final drive.
  • Allowed a QB hit as Brandon Copeland beat him off his inside shoulder, knocking the QB down as he threw the pass.
  • Was flagged for holding on 2nd-and-13, an obvious penalty as he took the defender down after getting beat off the edge.
  • Was also burned on a stunt off his inside shoulder, allowing another hit on Keenum.

Ron Leary: B-

  • Leary looked shaky at times and wasn’t dominating up front, but was the best of the five OL starters, doing a decent job of setting his angles and not allowing any pressure until the very end.
  • His worst play was a pressure up the middle he conceded, forcing an incompletion with less than four minutes remaining in the game.

Matt Paradis: C-

  • Paradis looked shaky at times, not identifying oncoming rushers and seeming to get outmuscled by some of the Jets stalwarts up front.
  • Allowed pressure up the middle that forced an incompletion as he was just dominated at the point of attack by a bullrush move that disrupted the pocket immediately.
  • He completely lost Leonard Williams, of all people, on an inside stunt giving up a big 3rd-and-8 sack as he let Williams through the A-gap unblocked.
  • Did a nice job creating a push on the opening drive as a run blocker but had too many mistakes following that.

Connor McGovern: F

  • Nose tackle Steve McLendon initially and Williams later on really killed McGovern in this one, as the RG looked outmatched for much of the game.
  • Struggled to win the leverage battle in the trenches, giving up repetitive penetration off his inside shoulder as the A-gap was constantly occupied by defenders he was tasked with blocking.
  • At the end of the day, No. 60 gave up 1.5 sacks, a tackle for a loss, and 2.5 run stops. Not good.
  • His worst play was a sack by Williams who destroyed him with a move inside on third-down.

Billy Turner: D

  • Turner had his worst game of the season allowing 1.5 sacks, one of which was a strip sack, and another run stop.
  • Jeremiah Attaochu just killed him by outrunning the RT outside and getting a massive hit on Keenum that forced the ball out.
  • Was beat inside by Nathan Shepherd for a run stuff with the Broncos pinned back at their own five in the third quarter.
  • Allowed pressure on at least another occasion, and though he had a few good plays early getting to the second level as a run blocker, he had too many mishaps in pass-pro.

Royce Freeman: C+

  • The majority of Freeman’s impact came on a 24-yard run in the second half, getting outside and juking his way through the open field.
  • Did his best breaking tackles and creating extra yardage despite poor blocking.
  • Caught a few passes on short dump offs that went for few yards.

Emmanuel Sanders: C-

  • Sanders was targeted 14 times and caught nine balls, but didn’t seem to be getting open with ease and took some hard hits in the process.
  • Wasn’t able to haul in a 3rd-and-6 pass that hit him in the hands as coverage was all over him on an out-route.
  • Was mostly a target on short throws outside to the sticks and did a nice job of that but wasn’t a game breaker.

Courtland Sutton: C

  • Sutton started off by stretching out for a TD grab, showing great footwork to complete the score down in the red zone.
  • After that, he was targeted five times and only had another short reception.
  • Was penalized on a dubious pass interference play that nullified a great run after the catch on 3rd-and-5.
  • Showed nice effort but was unable to capitalize on opportunities.

Jeff Heuerman: D

  • Heuerman started off well by creating yardage after the catch, cutting his run inside on a short dump off.
  • Ran a poor route down in the red zone where he should’ve stayed outside to the flats and could’ve had a touchdown, instead ran to the end zone and was covered up.
  • Had flashes as a blocker sealing the edge but wasn’t constantly impactful.

Case Keenum: D

  • Keenum’s stats looked good, but he was too slow getting rid of the ball and was the culprit on at least one sack that could’ve been avoided.
  • His ball placement was shaky, throwing three passes that could’ve been intercepted behind his receivers.
  • His interception in the end zone in the final seconds was also due to a forced throw that was behind his receiver.
  • Only converted 3-of-9 third-down pass attempts and was settling for short dump-offs  on third-and-long.
  • Struggled feeling out pressure and was unable to complete passes while on the move, with one exception.
  • Did make an outstanding touchdown throw, showing great touch on the run and leading Sutton perfectly.
  • Took what the defense gave him and racked up yards, especially in garbage time, but accuracy issues plagued him.

Other noteworthy offensive performances:

Phillip Lindsay: C+

  • Much like Freeman, the majority of Lindsay’s production came off of one-run; a 29-yard carry where he got outside and put on the burners.
  • Had another nice red zone carry for 12 yards showing great feet to set up 1st-and-goal.
  • For no fault of his own, he struggled on outside runs as the Broncos insisted on running against eight men in the box.
  • Had five runs that went for zero or negative yards.
  • Had a few other decent gains but was unable to make defenders miss in space with regularity.

DaeSean Hamilton: B

  • Hamilton caught his first pass as a pro on a nice grab, stretching out on a deep crosser for 24 yards.
  • Ran another sharp route for a 15-yard gain, setting the Broncos up in the red zone.
  • Caught all three of his targets and had a nice impact despite appearing in only 43 percent of the offensive snaps.

Special Teams: C-

New punter Colby Wadman got plenty of reps in his debut and started off poorly with an opening punt of 28-yards. He kicked another punt that was returned for a big 51-yard gain, which is on the cover team as well, in a pretty disappointing first game. 

Brandon McManus was perfect in the two kicks he had. 

Coaching: F

Bill Musgrave‘s offensive game plan was a bit troublesome due to unimaginative formations that lacked tempo and quick throws to help Keenum and the line. Six punts and one touchdown coming after the Gotsis fumble just won’t cut it. 

The running game struggled, too, as Denver insisted on running outside against eight men in the box which resulted in seven tackles for a loss, setting the offense back on second and third down.

The attack seems to be lacking an identity right now.

Joe Woods‘ ‘D’ looked out of sorts defending the run, missing tackles left and right and not hurrying Darnold at all with only a couple of quarterback pressures against a mediocre line. His insistence to play in off coverage keeps on hurting the defense against quick passing attacks. 

Vance Joseph‘s management of the game was ok, though the penalties were back up in this one, as the team continues to be dreadful on the road. 

Down by 17 in the fourth, Joseph decided to go for it on 4th-and-3 instead of taking the points with a field goal to make it a two-possession game.

He lost another challenge that he probably should’ve won and just didn’t have his players prepared in the worst loss of the season.

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